Liam Smith and Liam Williams met in a much-anticipated rematch, on Saturday night, at the Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle, UK. Liverpool’s Smith, trained by Joe Gallagher, emerged as the winner. Rhondda boxer Williams, trained by Gary Lockett, once again ended up on the wrong side of the result. I felt Williams should’ve had his hand raised at the end.
The first fight, in April, ended in controversy. Williams (16-2-1, 11 KOs), was headbutted in the ninth round and suffered a double laceration to the right eyelid. The referee should’ve halted the bout and gone to the scorecards. Terry O’Connor, inexplicably, missed the butt and allowed the fight to continue. Williams got through the round but was pulled out by his corner, due to the severity of the cuts. The Welsh boxer was ahead on the scorecards at the time he was pulled out but the victory went to Liverpool’s Smith.
Ahead of the rematch, Smith (26-1-1, 14 KOs) had questioned Williams’ heart. He received the answer, as Williams pushed the fight all night. Smith looked to move on the back-foot and counter. The main thing was to get a clear winner and clear up the stench from the first fight. I don’t believe we did get it cleared up. The commentary, for this fight, on Boxnation & BT Sports is some of the worst I’ve heard. John Rawling getting the fighters mixed up, giving Smith credit when it was his opponent landing. I had to watch the replay, with the sound turned off.
The opening round was an even affair, as both settled in for the night. The following rounds saw Williams doubling up on the jab and showing the greater accuracy of the two combatants. Former WBO World Jr. Middleweight champion Smith’s work was often in single shots and it took until the sixth round for the Liverpudlian to show more attacking purpose. It was the Welshman who threw in flurries, often following the jab up with rights or hooks. At several points, he landed a solid, quick uppercut. He appeared to hurt his right hand in the fifth (later revealed to be bruising). It was in that round, that Smith turned Williams on the ropes then landed a left hook, while his opponent’s back was turned–promptly receiving a warning from referee Steve Gray. A nice right landed by Smith but Williams replied with a volley of shots. Williams throwing more while Smith looked sluggish. A nice right hand had Smith retreating to the ropes.
Smith was digging in good punches, in the seventh, and it looked like he was starting to get a grip on the fight. The next few rounds Williams was boxing beautifully, the sharper of the pair and had a big tenth round when he appeared to have his foe stung by hooks. It was in the tenth that Williams fractured a metacarpal in his left hand. Smith closed the fight strongly, taking the last two rounds.
The fight was close and competitive. Williams the boxer coming forward, while Smith was looking to counterpunch on the back-foot. For me, Williams was throwing more and with greater accuracy. The pace was slower than the first bout, and it was a tactical battle rather than a slugfest. Thankfully, no cuts this time.
The Judges official scores: Phil Edwards 117-111, Dave Parris 116-112, Marcus McDonnell 114-114. Smith was the man who had his hand raised though I scored it 116-113 to Liam Williams. As fights go this wasn’t a blatant robbery but I can’t figure out, where the commentary team and judge Phil Edwards got their scores. It’s like they were watching a different fight. Boxing is a tough sport and it must be demoralizing for the boxer, who is the victim of poor judging.
My American colleagues at The Grueling Truth both scored Williams as the winner. Jeremiah Preisser: 115-113 to Williams and John Einreinhofer: 116-112 to Williams.
On the scoring, Gary Lockett (Williams trainer) had this to say: “I am really proud of Liam, I saw it really close, but on the night I’m the worst judge in the world.
“But I’m told lots and lots of people had Liam winning, so until I watch it back I don’t know what to think.
“I think I was surprised with the width of the decisions, to give it 117-111 is disgraceful.
“But look, we are getting it all the time – time and time and time again and nothing is done about it.
“It is not like Premier League football where bad performances [by officials] get punished and go down the league, our guys don’t have that.
“So there is nothing to keep them on their toes and even if they are under par there is never any punishment, which is disappointing to say the least.”
Promoter Frank Warren told BBC Sport: “It was a very close fight. The people around me, it was amazing how differently they were scoring it,”.
Liam Smith, 29, showed a different element to his usual style. The fortunate victory now sees him inline for a shot at the WBO World Jr. Middleweight title. Miguel Cotto holds the belt but has announced that he will be retiring at the end of the year. Smith will, likely, meet 22-year-old Russian Magomed Kurbanov (12-0, 9 KOs) for the vacant belt in 2018.
Liam Williams, 25, completed the full twelve rounds, for the first time in his career. He has learned a lot from these two battles with Smith. He’ll feel hard done by and rightly so. Once his hands have recovered, he’ll likely return to action in Wales, where he’s a proven ticket-seller. The aim will be to get a third fight with his rival and hopefully with a World title up for grabs.